When I first arrived in Uppsala I was in trance: taking in every rock and tree on the way from the Arlanda airport, fascinated by how un-naked grey it all looks. We passed by a lot of lakes, and I made a mental note to visit them on my future cycling trips.
Of course, I should tell you about my problems with accommodation. As it is well known, there’s a shortage of student flats in Uppsala, so my Erasmus coordinator had warned me I would stay in a temporary flat until October. However, it turned out I couldn’t move in before the 1st of August, and I arrived on 27th July, in time to register for EILC on the next day.
The people from EILC were really helpful; they took my details and told me they would refund all my hotel expenses until then. But when I could finally move in the room, it was completely unfurnished. My coordinator was on vacation, but from the housing office they’ve let me stay in Akademihotellet (the hotel above the housing office) for free until they can sort my problems. So I guess all is well; I still haven’t settled in and I’ll have to move my 50 kg of baggage once again, but on the bright side, I’ve been getting free breakfast for a week now.
It’s a good idea to transport some of your luggage with a courier company: I sent a 30-kilo suitcase from Edinburgh for 30 pounds: it is very relaxing to be able to take all the little things you’d normally have to buy here. Much better than having to face 10 kg over the limit at the airport: a guy from London had to say goodbye to a lot of clothes and trainers to avoid a £120 fee.
In the meantime, the EILC course along with the culture program is going full speed. On our tour around Uppsala, they warned us that the nice weather will stay with us for about 4 weeks: a little bit more if we’re lucky, a lot less if we aren’t. So we’re trying to take advantage of the friendly temperatures: on Saturday someone suggested going to the Åland archipelago; on Sunday at 8 in the morning 11 exchange students meet at the bus stop to the ferry to Finland. 6 of us got sunburnt (but in a nice way). A random trip is probably the best way to make friends.
Uppsala is a bike town: you see ‘cyklar’ everywhere, reminding you on your second day that it’s high time you got one. Disappointed with the prices in the bike shops (even most crooked second hand one is about 1000 kroner, or 95 pounds), I asked one of the approachable friendly English-speaking locals how to get a cheaper bike. The advice was right on: look them up online on blocket.se, similar to ebay, but you just phone the person selling the item and you arrange to meet up. There are variants as cheap as 250 kroner, but if you’re planning on cycling out of central town, get one with gears: it can get hilly.
After just a few days lake Mälaren (10 km south) became a legend and people cycle or take the bus to join a 100 others at the beach in the afternoon. The water is not as cool as you might expect, and they even sell ice cream!
Swedish is tough! Pronunciation is a bit weird, and they have three extra letters: å, ä, and ö. I can’t really hear the difference between ‘ä’ and ‘e’ sometimes, but the teacher promises we’ll soon get the hang of it.
Uppsala, 3 August 2011